Pandemic Parenting: It’s Not Perfect and That’s Okay

Balancing family, work, household needs and staying active has always been a struggle for me personally, as I’m sure it is for many other moms. It feels like the juggling act that never stops and when a ball drops, as they so often do, you just pick it back up and keep on going.

Exercising
Intense exercise used to be a daily priority, but any physical activity is a success these days.

In a world that’s so focused on the “go, go, go” mentality, I’ve always tried to take setbacks in stride, make the necessary adjustments and keep moving. But as everyone’s aware, things have changed quite a bit. Most of us are spending more time at home these days, but with schools closed along with just about everything else, the juggling act feels more like drowning in a ball pit.

When the pandemic began, I had (what I now know to be) wild and crazy fantasies of waking up early to exercise, making breakfast for the family, and focusing on work while my 11-year-old completed his school assignments and my 4-year-old played. We’d have lunch together, maybe take a mental break and go for a walk. I’d finish more work and then enjoy family time and figure out dinner. After tidying up the house a little, since I’d surely be keeping up on it while I’m home, we’d settle in for the night. Sounds nice and manageable, right? Queue, reality.

Daily workouts have become almost non-existent, breakfast is usually whatever I can pull together in five minutes or less and work is squeezed between 6th grade assignment questions and trying to keep my toddler from jumping on – and falling off – the couch. The house is a mess and by dinner, I’m ready to pull out a box of cereal for the kids while I enjoy a glass of “mom juice” before we head to bed and start it all over the next day.

News articles and social media seemed to imply that it was possible to thrive during this time, so why was I having such a hard time? Everywhere I look women are creating Pinterest-inspired schedules, setting up daily arts and crafts with their kids, scrubbing their houses from top to bottom, making Instagram-worthy meals and still manage to fit in a workout between organizing closets and cabinets. If they could do it, I should be able to do it too.

The pressure to keep everything together was crippling and I topped it all off with a little (or a lot) of anxiety and mom guilt. Parent, spouse, employee, teacher, chef, housekeeper – I was expecting myself to fulfill all these roles daily, but I failed to remember a couple of important facts, I’m only one woman and everyone is different.

Family picture
Enjoying the socially distanced outdoors

In some ways, I think it’s human nature to “want it all,” but despite our best efforts, it’s just not all possible, all the time. It took me a few weeks to realize and accept it, but once I stopped comparing and beating myself up and started focusing on simply doing what was possible for my family, it was easier to recognize my successes instead of my perceived failures.

Our meals aren’t gourmet, but my kids are fed and happy. Work is being completed, even if it’s getting done between toddler snuggles and never-ending snack requests. Google and I have become great friends when it comes to 6th grade social studies and math. Screen time is longer than I’d like it to be, but it’s better than a couch jumping-related doctor trip. The house isn’t spotless, but we’re not expecting guests anytime soon, so I’ll get to it. And two workouts a week is better than zero.

At the end of the day, the most important thing is we’re all healthy and even if we’re not thriving, we’re surviving. Because nothing about this situation is normal and there really is no right way to navigate it, which as it turns out is okay, because I’m doing the best I can and I’m sure you are too.

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Photos courtesy Brianna Neace

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